Privilege? What privilege?

Since there’s a good fire going already, thought I’d toss a little fuel on it.

I’m sick of the constant privilege argument on here. For starters, it’s unnecessarily divisive. For another, it’s just stupid.

A lot of people on here toss around the word “privilege” based on their own stereotypes of what privilege supposedly looks like. It would be funny except it’s used to bash other sex workers.

But it’s also incredibly counter-productive. If a sex worker has some amount of privilege, isn’t it better that she (or he) uses their advantages to try and help others? If they’re supposedly privileged and isolated from the negatives of sex work, it would be much easier for them to simply live in their own happy world and ignore the larger problems. After all, those aren’t their problems.

This isn’t to say everyone should be thankful when those with privilege come down off Mt. Olympus to help the common folk — there’s no need. What is needed is an awareness that those with relative privilege are in the best position to help others simply because that’s how life works. If you have the luxury of a social consciousness/time/energy/money, why not put it to use?

Taking in the broader picture, we all need to realize that the privilege argument doesn’t concern the outside world much. I see this every day in my Google Alerts. It’s wasted energy here.

To most of the outside world, we’re all AIDS-infested, criminal crack whores anyway.

18 Responses

  1. excellent post

  2. Amanda, I love you, marry me in Canada?

    The You’re So Privileged argument is used to shut a spectrum of sex workers out of sex worker conversation and debates by all too many people.

  3. Ren,

    Thank you!

    And thank you for my first same-sex marriage proposal. Glad it’s from a kinky girl like you.

    XX

  4. ZOMG, I remember the whole tigtog “You’re priviledged enough to afford a bodyguard”…Ren “How, exactly, do you think I pay my security?” thing over at Ren’s place.

    The anti-porn types are so quick to pull the privilege card when it suits *their* purposes, but won’t look at their own. It feels like a variation of the Oppression Olympics.

  5. It’s not just the antis who like to throw the privilege argument around. That’s why I wrote this piece on this particular blog.

    XX

  6. rock on amanda, Ren, get your own girl, I knew her first!!!

  7. My therapist introduced me to this concept, what Freud calls “the Narcissim of small differences”. Basically it describes the phenomenon of the intense ideological splits and in-fighting and strict identity regulations around groups that to 99.2 % of the population of the world look identical. For example the social distances and self-created and enforced hierarchies between Dommes, Dancers and Prostitutes. Or the fact that I used to hate it when people called me a Mansonite and now hate it when people call me a “Burner” even though I look like an artsy freak and how the hell are they supposed to know the difference between a kinky queer who used to….well you get the idea.

    Though I disagree that everyone thinks of all sex workers as “AIDS-infested, criminal crack whores anyway”, even in the main-stream conciousness and media archetypes there has long been a class-based split between the “desperate streetwalker” and the glamorous “high-class call girl”.

    Sometimes issues of privilege do trump issues of work genre in terms of shared experience. Sometimes not. I feel that I’m privileged and I have a lot more shared experience with most computer programmers who can afford SF rent than with many street-based workers turning tricks for crack. While I don’t agree that arguing about privilege or lack thereof should be grounds for an ideological split in a movement, I think that can only really be avoided by acknowledging that what we’re talking about is shared experiences and understanding, honoring and empowering each other as best we can.

    Also recognizing what we don’t understand, never having been close to such an experience.

    I guess my feeling is,
    don’t ignore it, don’t dwell on it: acknowledge it. Keep it in mind, and what it means, while moving forward. Learn from each other where there are gaps in understanding, and work towards getting people of all kinds in touch with and heard in their own voices.

    Besides, you should all marry me anyway:
    http://www.sadieswife.blogspot.com

  8. I agree, Amanda.

    I think that understanding the concept of privilege is useful, but I find that all too often, people throw the word around as an insult or a way to shut others up. (“You’re just saying that because you’re PRIVILEGED!”) But anyone who grasps what privilege is actually about knows that it’s not about personal moral failings, but about larger societal implications.

  9. […] Privilege? What privilege? « Bound, Not Gagged “Taking in the broader picture, we all need to realize that the privilege argument doesn’t concern the outside world much. I see this every day in my Google Alerts. It’s wasted energy here. To most of the outside world, we’re all AIDS-infested, crim (tags: privilege sexwork stereotypes counterproductive arguing solidarity) […]

  10. the last line of this post reveals a lot of privilege. there are women who aren’t sex workers who are considered aids-infested crack whores by the ‘outside world’ (i suppose meaning the msm).

    it’s very telling to note who feels that any mention of privilege is used as a battering ram to stifle discussion and who feels that privilege is an important part of any discourse about sexwork.

    i mean, this entire post i am commenting on here drips with privilege, which is just…heh. i don’t even know how to respond to that level of blitheness.

    maybe i’ll figure out something, i would like to have a proper esponse to this sort of plaint.

  11. “i mean, this entire post i am commenting on here drips with privilege, which is just…heh. i don’t even know how to respond to that level of blitheness. ”

    Predictable response. Though since you’re a sex worker connected to the Internet and posting here too, you’re also in the “privileged” category. Just FYI.

    As for my last line — it comes from years of being aware of the stigma of a sex worker, as well as a year of really intense news study (still ongoing). If you read all the shit every day that I read (and maybe you do), you’ll understand better why I said what I did. I even get this shit in my personal life from people who know me and should know better. Blithe? I think fucking NOT.

    My post is a call for sex workers to focus their energy on something of bigger importance. The privilege arugment is great for tearing things apart; useless for getting anything of significance accomplished.

    Of course, what is most ironic is that you’re buying the privilege arugment hook, line and sinker. You see the surface and believe in stereotypes like any other civilian. As a sex worker, you should know better.

    I see advantage as different from privilege. No sex worker is truly privileged; but some are in a better life situation than others. That’s to be expected, but it certainly isn’t something to get upset over. The details may differ, but the same basic issues affect us all.

    Because we do all live in a society that see us as vermin, as a blight, as something to be rid of.

    PS: I’m aware other women may be put in the same category for various reasons, but my focus here is on sex workers of all genders, not women in general.

  12. there are women who aren’t sex workers who are considered aids-infested crack whores by the ‘outside world’ (i suppose meaning the msm).

    Of course there are, but how is that on-topic to the purpose of this blog?

  13. Can people define how “msm” is being used? In the circles I walk in (around and around) it means “men who have sex with men,” but that clearly doesn’t follow given the above sentence.

    I think this is a very important discussion, if not a little one-dimensional on both “sides” (“for” and “against” the term privilege), especially in light of the post concerning the Washington, D.C. group Different Avenues’ report above this one on BNG.

    It’s clear to me there’s a middle ground. I especially like Sadie’s approach.

  14. William: I was thinking the same thing about msm!

    I know some use it to refer to mainstream media. But I did too many years in HIV Prevention to not read it as ‘men who have sex with men’ every time I see it!!

  15. I read it as “men who have sex with men too.”

    William,

    My point was, and is trying to be, that the whole arugment should be tabled. It’s a useless waste of energy altogether. There are bigger and better things that unite us than this squabbling over perceptions of another’s station in life.

  16. i meant mainstream media. i should have capitalised, usually lowercase does mean men who have sex with other men.

    talking about the continuum of privilege isn’t ‘squabbling over perceptions’.

    that’s just it. it’s a continuum, not a binary. this whole
    ‘omg u haz internetz 2 so u cant talk about privilege’ misses the point.

    it is PRIVILEGE (in the OP’s case) that you have to be a SEX WORKER to get called a ‘crack whore’, to have mainstream society default to thinking of you that way. many women are considered such without being in sex-based employment.

    and even in the realm of sex work, there is a clear whore/madonna (yes, the irony is palpable) distinction, with very specific women allowed to be ‘hot coeds stripping/escorting/webcamming for tuition money’ vs. the ones who are shoved into the ‘ghetto crack whore’ category. who is clustered where along THAT continuum is pretty telling, as well.

    look at the book ivy league stripper. she was lacking in class privilege (in fact, it was a major theme of the memoir). but she was blonde, she was white, she spent all that strippermoney on tuition, so it was ‘ok’. nobody looks at her and thinks ‘aids-infested crack whore’.

    and the reasons why are one of the “real issues”. privilege and intersectionality permeate all cultures, including the subculture(s) of western-world, mostly american sexwork (as far as this particular blog’s primary posting ratios).

    i appreciate that this site does have perhaps the most open commenting policy on i’ve seen on a trafficked blog. but i won’t take up more comments on this post. i keep coming back to it, and i can always link back to it when i’m ready to analyse it more thoroughly. i still have a thrashing of the freaknonomics prostitution study to finish up. and yeah, privilege comes into play regarding that little mess, and no small amount of it.

    i just think privilege discussion should be incoporated into the larger fabric of discourse and problem solving, rather than ‘tabled’.

    no idea why i had to change my username for that other post, but oh well. weird cookies.

  17. Oh for fucksake.

    I AM bitter. ALL sex workers get the aids infested crack whore bullshit from time to time. Even the white, privileged ones.

    ALL of them face strife and bullshit.

    How hard is that to grasp?

  18. Whatever. Torduange is clearly not getting your point, Amanda.

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